Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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bamwc2
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#351 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:52 pm

With just a few days left, are we going to get any hints, Matrix?

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swo17
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#352 Post by swo17 » Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:01 pm

That would first require any two people to have voted for the same film.

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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#353 Post by domino harvey » Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:43 pm

You're only half kidding! I don't think I'm even going to bother posting anything outside my Top Ten once it's all said and done, since it'll be mostly orphans anyways. Sure, some obvious choices like Microcosmos and Roger and Me will probably have some support, but I'm not deluding myself into thinking anyone's voting for American Thrift et al

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zedz
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#354 Post by zedz » Wed Mar 12, 2014 6:40 pm

domino harvey wrote:You're only half kidding! I don't think I'm even going to bother posting anything outside my Top Ten once it's all said and done, since it'll be mostly orphans anyways.
I'm more interested in people's orphans than the consensus choices, so please bother!

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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#355 Post by domino harvey » Wed Mar 12, 2014 6:54 pm

Okay, while I'm thinking about it, I hope some of you remembered Kevin Brownlow's excellent and extensive Hollywood doc for your lists

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#356 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:34 am

Haha, hints require that one has started the compilation process. I'll try to get on that tomorrow.

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swo17
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#357 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:32 pm

Just submitted a list. Some stats:

Split by decade -- 1890s: 1 -- 1900s: 2 -- 1910s: 1 -- 1920s: 4 -- 1930s: 4 -- 1940s: 1 -- 1950s: 3 -- 1960s: 7 -- 1970s: 7 -- 1980s: 9 -- 1990s: 3 -- 2000s: 6 -- 2010s: 2

Films under an hour in length: 30

Spotlight titles voted for besides my own: 3

Consecutively placing films starting with the letters 'Wa': 5

Films starring inanimate objects: 4

Not actually documentaries: 47


Disclaimer: These are all non-verified statistics actually presented in one of the films on my list. Or maybe not.

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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#358 Post by domino harvey » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:31 pm

Room 237 (Rodney Ascher 2013) Like giving 100+ minutes over to one of those stupid Illuminati conspiracy vids, this trudge through a series of absurd, self-serious misreadings of a text is one of the most misguided films I've seen in some time. There is no excuse to give so much time to a group of people who are so delusional with regards to their readings of Kubrick's the Shining that some or all may be mentally ill. What I object to most strongly however is how this provides fuel for the anti-intellectual fires who associate grossly inappropriate close readings like those found in this film with actual academic film criticism and theory-- this doc does not do what film criticism does, and the degree to which conjecture and confirmation bias are trudged out as fact would get every last one of these ludicrous theories laughed out of conference. On the bright side, I may have set a record with this film for talking back to the TV, even if it was just variations of "Jesus Christ" and "Shut the fuck up"

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knives
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#359 Post by knives » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:41 pm

Yeah, that was easily the worst film I saw for this project. I practically gave up afterward its such a stupid CNN type thing.

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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#360 Post by domino harvey » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:57 pm

Also I forgot to vote for Histoire(s) du Cinema, did anyone else vote for it? If so I'll bug Matrix about adding it in, otherwise I won't bother

EDIT I did it, I did the thing

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swo17
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#361 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:03 pm

So are you guys suggesting that Stanley Kubrick didn't fake the moon landing? Also, I liked this observation from an IMDb reviewer:
As for the key in the door which only spells out 'room' and 'moon'? It also spells out 'moor'. And 'moron'.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#362 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:08 pm

I haven't started compiling, so go ahead and resubmit your list if you want to Dom.

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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#363 Post by domino harvey » Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:09 pm

There are too many stupid theories to count, but the sheer amount of screentime devoted to exploring the deep meaning behind simple continuity errors is enough to drive anyone to homicidal madness. Maybe Jack Torrence just saw this doc?

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#364 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:35 pm

Even for theories that are relatively defensible- the imperialism one, say, where the hotel's evil derives from the destruction of native peoples, the actual evidence used to defend them are unbearably eyeroll-worthy garbage. When you get to ones like the moon landing, where the guy obviously just wanted to talk about how the moon landing was fake and would take any excuse to do so, it literally feels like I'm watching Loose Change.

bamwc2
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#365 Post by bamwc2 » Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:59 pm

Well, I liked Room 237 a lot, and included it in the top half of my list. I don't look at it as a film about The Shining at all. Instead, it is a film about obsession and madness, subjects that I can relate to! The film is really about the people talking instead of what they're talking about.

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#366 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Mar 14, 2014 3:14 am

Room 237 is a film in which a bunch of obsessives rattle off various theories about the sub-textual meanings in The Shining. These range from the genocide of the Indians, to hints about Kubrick faking the moon landings, Nazis! and more. When one enthusiast starts weaving a theory about Indian genocide based largely around the Calumet baking soda cans in the storage room, I was cynically wondering why the large cans of Tang didn't have equal hidden meanings. And then later another nutter launches into how Kubrick helped fake the moon landing footage and is hinting at that throughout the film, as the presence of large jars of Tang make abundantly clear. Conspiracy theories are always amusing/interesting but a lot of the ideas here have an I Buried Paul quality to them.

Some of the observations, and especially the minor details taken up, are interesting. However, a number of them just seemed like parodies of over-analyzing a text and finding whatever meanings you are looking for. The Nazi/Holocaust theories fell into the later category: #42 on the kid's sweater + a German brand typewriter = 1942 and Nazi genocide. Uh, sure. Seemed just as easy to say 42 was Jackie Robinson's number plus Scatman Crothers taking an axe to the midsection referred to segregation or black oppression or wherever you wanted to go with such loose theorizing.

I was also less impressed with those who thought Kubrick was a super-genius who tossed in symbols and allusions to all of human culture in his horror movie. But I guess that would account for the draggy pace of the film. Not necessary, but probably a good idea to re-watch The Shining before and/or possibly after viewing the Room 237 documentary. Room 237 is probably a good thing to catch some fragments of on cable -- but overall just adds up to a misuse of interpretation and obsession.

This is good:
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly:
"Room 237 makes perfect sense of The Shining because, even more than The Shining itself, it places you right inside the logic of how an insane person thinks."

A lot of the problem is that these folks are sure they've decoded some important hidden meaning intrinsic to the film, whereas if they just took a more low key approach their ideas and connections would be more interesting and believable. Okay, believable might be a stretch. That the silhouette of the skier in a poster on the wall happens to (sort of) look like a minotaur is interesting, but doesn't mean that it was intended to convey that meaning, deftly hinting at the labyrinth, etc.

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Murdoch
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#367 Post by Murdoch » Fri Mar 14, 2014 12:10 pm

I think the only theory I found believable was that the crashed car at the beginning of The Shining was Kubrick's fuck you to King, basically saying he'll do what he wants with his movie. But yeah, everything else was painful. I'd believe Room 237 was about the theorists' delusions more if the entire film wasn't so focused on laying out their theories in painstaking detail. I didn't get a sense of critique of these ideas or the people behind them, just a complicity of the filmmakers in presenting these theories on their face and faintly nodding along as their subjects ramble on.

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zedz
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#368 Post by zedz » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:59 pm

Bad scholarship and confirmation bias dialled up to 11 is so common that sometimes I think it might be the default setting of modern critical engagement, so it's not something I'd go out of my way to encounter, and I can't see how it would make an interesting subject for a documentary unless there are some kind of real-world consequences (e.g. Mr Death).

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Gregory
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#369 Post by Gregory » Fri Mar 14, 2014 3:16 pm

Of the people interviewed, Bill Blakemore seems the most sane. For those who don't know, he wrote a widely read article about this in the 1980s titled "The Family of Man," and has clarified and expanded his thoughts on it in print again last year. He doesn't think that every detail in the film is some kind of clue to what the film is really about but rather that Indian imagery pervades the film in key ways and suggest what trace is left behind when something happens, as Dick Hallorann puts it; "ghosts" that still lingered in 1980s.
It's unfortunate that people who are at least reasonable in how they present their interpretation, while one may not agree with most or any parts of it, are tainted by being thrown into the mix with people who think Kubrick conspired with NASA to fake the moon landing footage.
Still, Blakemore doesn't gain any credibility for himself in the eyes of skeptics when he includes something like this in the article:
One journalist, interviewing Diane Johnson about working with Kubrick on the film script, asked her about all the Indian elements that are woven throughout the film. She answered with words to the effect that “He had all of that worked out before he started working with me on the script.” (Not the exact words but very close; I’ve got the article stashed in some file I can’t find at the moment.)
Well, can't someone locate another copy of this article? Or ask Johnson about it again?

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martin
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#370 Post by martin » Fri Mar 14, 2014 4:01 pm

Here are some "bio-docs" (and some vaguely or not-at-all related genres) that didn't make my list. These are all films which I've either watched for the first time in 2014 or rewatched specifically for this project.

Bloody Daughter (Stéphanie Argerich, 2012)
I guess my avatar reveals that I'm a fan of the classical pianist Martha Argerich. This documentary, filmed by Martha's daughter on video, follows Martha during her everyday routines, rehearsals and concert performances. The film probably lacks some edge to make it really great cinema, although the title has a bit of an edge because the phrase "bloody daughter" is what Stéphanie used to be called by her mother and father (pianist Stephen Kovacevich)! Yet the intended meaning of "bloody daughter" was rather loving and affectionate, and the film is made "con amore" about a mother who's obviously a goddess. Still, a treat for Martha Argerich's fans.

Derrida (Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering, 2002)
This is the only one of Kirby Dick's films I've seen but a few other films of his have been mentioned by others in the thread. The French philosopher Derrida is followed during trips and lectures in France, USA and South Africa. Initially he seems somewhat uncomfortable about the project but he softens a bit as the project goes on and does show a funnier side (which I hadn't expected). You won't learn much about deconstruction although a few deconstructive phrases like 'phallogocentrism' and 'differance' (sic) are mentioned. An anecdote told in the film about the word 'differance' actually caused a laughter when I watched the film. It's a difficult subject but the film has a few interesting approaches. And there's some music by Takemitsu.

L'abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze (Pierre-André Boutang, 1996)
This is not a bio doc at all but rather an 8 hour conversation with the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze where he discusses 26 different subjects - one subject for each letter of the alphabet. The film was shot in 1988 and was not to be published until after his death (in 1995). He uses approximately 20 minutes on each subject and luckily allows himself a lot of digressions. It's shot without any editing (except a lot of reel changes!) in the course of three days, I think. There's less talk about cinema than I had expected. The minimalistic concept would probably work better as a book but it's still nice to see him talking. I particularly sympathize with his idea that it can be very valuable to study a full oeuvre instead of just the canonical works (an idea which isn't explicitly stated but which is somehow implied).

Liv & Ingmar (Dheeraj Akolkar, 2012)
Swedish TV showed two different version of this film a couple of weeks ago. I saw the extended cut. It's a film about Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman's relationship - narreted by Ullmann in English. It's very moving and emotional. And those blue eyes of Liv! But there are so many films about Ingmar Bergman and his films that I can't really decide which ones to choose (films like Marie Nyreröd's 3-hour series; the discussion with Jörn Donner; Bergman's own "Making of"; the 5-part series by Vilgot Sjöman about the shooting of Winter Light etc.). The 6-part series about Bergman's video collection also struck me as a very interesting and unusual appraoch. But I won't consider the series about his video collection for my list as I've not had a chance to watch all 6 parts yet (Danish TV has just started showing the series though).

Godard, l'amour, la poésie (Luc Lagier, 2007)
A film about Anna Karina's and Godard's relationship - told through the films they made together. Godard, AK, and nouvelle vague is a highlight in cinema history imo, but this doc still seems somewhat ordinary.

Paparazzi (Jacques Rozier, 1964)
A short film about the paparazzi following Bardot during the shoot of Le mépris. Interesting.

L'univers de Jacques Demy (Agnès Varda, 1995)
Great feature length documentary by Varda about her late husband Demy. It's mainly about his films, but also with some biographic details. Not chronological. Great use of clips from his films and archive footage.

Cinéastes de notre temps - Carl Th. Dreyer (Eric Rohmer, 1965)
Nice film about Dreyer. I like that it is shot in Copenhagen and how it really makes an efort to portrait Copenhagen c. 1965. But the film is still somewhat conventional in it's concept. I'd also like to compare it to Jørgen Roos' Dreyer-film, and to a newer Dreyerfilm with Casper Tybjerg (shown on Danish TV 2014) before I decide about putting it on my list. But there's no time, so I'll leave it out. But there are some great docs in the series "Cinéastes de notre temps", for instance Godard talking with Fritz Lang, or Rivette with Renoir.

Gabriels verden (Karin Mørch, 2008)
The title means "Gabriel's world". It's a film about the Danish filmmaker Gabriel Axel, shot in 2007 by his daughter. There are some great scenes at a café in Paris with Chabrol and Gabriel Axel enjoying a meal and discussing food (Chabrol, of course, was a real connoisseur of food). It's also moving to hear Chabrol and Axel talking about still making films after their 100th birthday! A really moving scene has Axel with watery eyes telling about how he never had enough time with his family because he had to pursue his career (the intensity of the scene is probably enhanced by having his daughter on the other side of the camera). This film would have been a great supplement to the Babette's Feast Blu-rays, but I think it's still unreleased on video.

11 personlige udsagn om Jørgen Leth og hans værk (Henning Camre, 2009)
There isn't an IMDb entry for this film at the moment. It's basically a supplement made for the "Jørgen Leth Collections" issued by The Danish Film Institute. 11 directors, writers or other cultural/academic persons each makes a 10 minute statement about filmmaker/poet Jørgen Leth. Thus the total length is over 110 minutes. There are a lot of obstructions: No interviews, only statements. Fixed camera. Look into the camera. Only Close ups. No distracting objects in the image. No camera movements. One full reel shot at a time (10 mins.). No cuts. No editing. The variety of what these 11 individuals have to say is quite remarkable. And this film would have been a perfect companion for the Five Obstructions if it wasn't for its excessive length.

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domino harvey
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#371 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 14, 2014 4:17 pm

I'll concede that the film does have a lot of Indian imagery, but the question is was it put there for its "meaning" or because any ski lodge in the area would likewise have such a motif? The easiest way to discover for oneself would be to browse the brochures of other similar resorts in the state (or now surf online or talk to the other resorts' former interior designers-- you know, research not conjecture, something most of the suppositions presented within the film lack), in which case I would wager good money most if not all have about the same level of Native American accoutrements in their overall interior design. His claim that "All that was in the script early on" could just as easily describe Kubrick's desire to replicate a common design motif within the set of his ski resort. The stuff with the baking soda cans was just embarrassing, though-- I could see a one line aside about the cans in a larger paper wherein all of the stronger claims of the symbolic nature of Native American representation were explored, but as a primary citation it is unconvincing to put it mildly.

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Gregory
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#372 Post by Gregory » Fri Mar 14, 2014 5:44 pm

Most of the Indian imagery that Blakemore has written about is not hotel interior design, though. And decor choices wouldn't have been one of the earliest choices in the writing process unless Kubrick had indeed wanted it to be a crucial theme in writing and structuring the film, not just designing the film's decor to look convincing or realistic. I believe Blakemore that Johnson could have said something just like his paraphrase because the siting of the film on an Indian burial ground was a deliberate choice that had a lot to do with the premise and concept of the film. The real question for Johnson then is why Kubrick wanted work out all the Indian stuff at the beginning of the writing process, and is Blakemore onto something—but Johnson may not want to comment on Kubrick's intentions for the same reasons that the director himself wanted to keep viewers wondering and thinking it out for themselves. So we get endless speculations and meaning attributed to many things that were circumstantial, and if people discuss it all long enough they go crazy.
Critics who do any kind of close reading routinely assign great importance to small details that may not represent the filmmakers intentions (and of course there's the "intentional fallacy"), and the difference here seems to be that more attention is paid to objects and decor than to the characters and their stories in the world of the film, so it can easily come across as a little bit crazy—even without the Moon landing conspiracies or playing around with numbers seen in the film. But the Overlook is almost a character in the film (probably sounds crazy to some) with its own power, and is where nearly all the action takes place, and Kubrick paid more attention to tiny details than most other filmmakers, so it's not entirely surprising that someone sees a minotaur shape on a poster or something similar and starts coming up with connections and allusions.

I've been to Timberline Lodge, which was one of the crucial locations for the film (the interior filming mostly being done on elaborately constructed sets of course) and there is a Native American influence to the design, but not like what we see in the Overlook. Some of the design shows influences from Pacific Northwest tribal art, not what most viewers of the Shining would pick up on as "Indian," so it seems like Kubrick went with more identifiable elements of Navajo and Plains Indians to make it easier for viewers to identify those as familiarly "Indian" rather than to make the sets look anything like the design of the Timberline.

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Murdoch
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#373 Post by Murdoch » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:07 pm

martin wrote:Paparazzi (Jacques Rozier, 1964)
Is this available in the French Rozier box?

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swo17
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#374 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:12 pm

It's on Criterion's Contempt release.

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Murdoch
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Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#375 Post by Murdoch » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:21 pm

Ah, thanks.

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